NASHVILLE (WSMV) - Gov. Bill Haslam announced his decision to grant executive clemency to Nashville inmate Cyntoia Brown on Monday.
Brown will be released on parole supervision on Aug. 7, 2019, after serving 15 years in prison.
Her parole supervision will continue until Aug. 7, 2029, which is when her sentence expires.
Bellow is the full statement from the governor:
This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case. Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life. Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.
Brown issued this statement reacting to the news:
Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.
I want to thank those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who saw something in me worth salvaging, especially Ms. Connie Seabrooks for allowing me to participate in the Lipscomb LIFE Program. It changed my life. I am also grateful to those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who will work with me over the next several months to help me in the transition from prison to the free world.
Thank you to Dr. Richard Goode and Dr. Kate Watkins and all of you at Lipscomb University for opening up a whole new world for me. I have one course left to finish my Bachelor’s degree, which I will complete in May 2019.
I am thankful for all the support, prayers, and encouragement I have received. We truly serve a God of second chances and new beginnings. The Lord has held my hand this whole time and I would have never made it without Him. Let today be a testament to His Saving Grace.
Thank you to my family for being a backbone these past 14 years.
I am thankful to my lawyers and their staffs, and all the others who, for the last decade have freely given of their time and expertise to help me get to this day.
I love all of you and will be forever grateful.
With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people. My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.
Brown's parole conditions will require her not to violate any state or federal laws. She will have to follow the requirements issued in the release plan set by the Tennessee Department of Correction, including conditions for her employment, education, counseling and community engagement.
Brown was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery by a Davidson County jury in 2006.
According to police, Brown killed 43-year-old real estate agent Johnny Allen. At the time, Brown was 16 years old.
Brown received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after serving a minimum of 51 years in prison. This means she would not have been eligible for parole consideration until 2055 unless the governor stepped in.
Cyntoia Brown was granted clemency by Governor Haslam on Monday and will be a free woman in seven months. You may be thinking all Cyntoia Brown has to do is walk out and she's free, but it’s not as simple as that.
During her time in prison, Brown earned her GED and an associate's degree. She is expected to complete her bachelor's degree later this year.
Nashville Mayor David Briley issued this statement about the announcement:
I am deeply grateful to Governor Haslam for his decision to commute the sentence of Cyntoia Brown today.
He has yet again demonstrated that mercy, redemption and forgiveness have an important place in our democracy and criminal justice system.
I also want to thank my former colleagues at Bone McAllester Norton and the advocates and organizations who fought so hard for Ms. Brown’s freedom.
This is a great day for social justice and our city.
Brown's case has garnered attention from multiple celebrities, including Kim Kardashian West, who reacted on Twitter on Monday.
👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Thank you Governor Haslam 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 https://t.co/rAiru84fgn— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 7, 2019
Haslam has previously granted five commutations, 15 pardons and one exoneration. He continues to review and consider additional clemency requests.
"While we have spent a considerable amount of time studying and implementing sentencing and criminal justice reform in our state, there is more work to be done," Haslam said. "I am hopeful serious consideration of additional reforms will continue, especially with respect to the sentencing of juveniles."
Senators, representatives and state officials released statements Monday thanking Haslam.
Senator Brenda Gilmore:
I want to sincerely thank Governor Bill Haslam for being courageous in the face of a serious decision. Governor Haslam reviewed the case and listened to thousands of voices resonating across Tennessee and around the country. Although Brown made a grave mistake when she was 16, her mistake should not result in the forfeiture of her entire life. Brown was raised in an environment saturated with physical and psychological abuse. She was later raped and trapped in a life of sex trafficking by an abusive pimp. These were the circumstances in which a man was tragically killed during his purchase of Cyntoia, a minor, form sex. Governor Haslam saw that life in prison was not justice for this abused teenager. I thank Governor Haslam for showing compassion for a black woman, which society often overlooks.
I congratulate Cyntoia Brown for making the best out of her life after this tragedy. The State of Tennessee and countless adults let her down during her childhood. But, since her incarceration, Cyntoia has done all that she can do to improve and empower herself. She has obtained a college degree and serves as a mentor to empower other female victims of sexual violence. Cyntoia is the number one reason that she is getting this second chance, because she has grown and embraced all the positivity and progress that we expect of upstanding people in our society. Considering her many obstacles, she has persevered and dedicated herself to personal growth. Cyntoia should be proud of herself, and people of good conscience should be proud as well.
I would also like to thank all the supporters of this great noble effort to bring justice for this young woman. No matter whether you marched, wrote to the governor, posted on social media, informed your neighbors, or prayed for this young woman, it took all of our combined energies to get our mission accomplished and we should all be very proud and hopeful this day.
Senator Katrina Robinson:
Hearing that Cyntoia Brown has been granted clemency has been the greatest news of the New Year – just a day before we take oath of office for the 111th General Assembly. This sets the path for juvenile justice reform we need in Tennessee and in this country.
I am proud to have been a part of this movement, and look forward to continuing the progress we have begun over these past few months. This triumph was a team effort led by legislators, concerned citizens, and public icons all around the nation. I am thankful to Governor Haslam for his conscientious deliberation and decision.” said Sen. Robinson. Senator Robinson has been in communication with Cyntoia’s family over the past few months, stating that they are so grateful for the work everyone has done to bring Cyntoia home. They are even more grateful that Cyntoia has the opportunity to use her platform to help continue the work.
My legislative team has completed a bill that would exempt minors from the controversial bill that required Ms. Brown to serve for 51 years without parole. Together, we will help right these injustices, and make Tennessee’s penal code a shining example for the United States.
Representative London Lamar:
I am extremely thankful that Governor Haslam is doing the right thing and granting Cyntoia her release. She was a 16-year-old victim of sex trafficking who was forced into a nightmarish situation. The decision to grant her clemency shows a tremendous amount of compassion for the horrors that she has endured in her life. But it also brings to light that we need to continue to fight for other young women like Cyntoia. Her story is tragic, but unfortunately, it’s the story of many girls across this state whose innocence and dignity has been stolen. We have to pass legislation that will reduce child sex trafficking and protect its victims. In the meantime, I am grateful that Cyntoia will get a second chance at life, elated for her and her family and want to let them know that I am here to help her in her transition.
District Attorney Glenn Funk:
The Governor’s decision to commute the sentence of Cyntoia Brown is an exercise of his authority under the Tennessee Constitution.
The District Attorney’s office remembers the victims in this case, who was killed as slept and whose death cannot be reversed.
The District Attorney’s office also recognizes that at the time of her offense, Ms. Brown was a juvenile and a victim of sex trafficking.
The Governor obviously arrived at his decision after careful consideration. He no doubt took into account the apparent rehabilitation of Ms. Brown while in custody, including her graduation from college and her conduct while incarcerated.
Black Lives Matter Nashville also released a statement on Facebook:
Stay with News4 for updates on this developing story.
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